A recent Michigan State University study published in the journal Veterinary Pathology reports that a rare human lung disease has now been discovered in dogs.
Pulmonary veno-occlusive disease (PVOD), a form of pulmonary hypertension, is not a common affliction, only affecting only about 15-50 people per million each year in the United States.
Only about 10% of pulmonary hypertension cases are diagnosed as PVOD, when doctors cannot determine any other cause of the disease. PVOD is among the most severe forms of pulmonary hypertension, and unfortunately, treatment options are very limited. In most cases, a lung transplant is a patient's best hope for recovery.
In humans, PVOD develops when the lungs cannot properly oxygenate the body. Abnormal blood vessels in the lungs force the heart to work much harder to pump blood through those vessels. In PVOD patients, the small lung veins develop blockages, which causes pressure to build within, and heart failure eventually follows.
Symptoms of human PVOD include respiratory distress, fast breathing, cough, loss of appetite, and chronic fatigue. In humans, it can take up to two years for the disease to run its course and eventually claim the life of the patient.
According to veterinary respiratory pathologist and lead author of the study, Kurt Williams, PVOD presents similarly in dogs.
"These dogs also come in with similar symptoms as humans, yet because subtle changes in health may not be recognized as quickly in dogs, death can occur quickly once the animal is seen by a veterinarian."
PVOD is not a well-understood disease. This is largely because, until now, it has only been documented in one species: humans. The Michigan State University Study documenting PVOD in dogs is a major advance in understanding this rare disease-- in both species.
"It's cases like this that help remind us how important veterinary medicine is to medicine in general...Our colleagues in the human medical community are becoming much more aware of the many diseases shared by our respective patients and how together we can learn from each other," says Williams.
Want to learn more about PVOD in dogs? You can read the study here.